Southern Decadent Culture and Lifestyle

How much thought do you give to your “culture and lifestyle”?

Probably not that much, I would imagine. But the fact is that there are a lot of different kinds of cultures bubbling under the surface of the niceties that most of us observe as American “culture.”

I think most everyone would admit there’s a vast difference between white and black culture, for example. Some of those lines have certainly been blurred over the past 50 years post-segregation, but in truth, there are a lot of practices that are almost foreign to one group or the other. We all meet in the middle with the so-called “American” lifestyle. I suppose that’s where our melting pot culture comes from: we take a little bit here, and a little bit there, mix them up and come up with something that’s more homogenous. And in my opinion: pretty boring (Why else do tyou think I live in New Orleans?).

Homogenous, we ain't...! (Photo: Kim Welsh)

Homogeneity in mainstream American culture creates a lifestyle that allows us to recognize some of our commonalities and to function more easily in a society that consists of all sorts of ethnicities, religions, races, and sexual preferences. These innate differences are, of course, featurea of a highly diversified population, the hallmark of America. It’s especially true in New Orleans, a city that revels in eccentricity, that we’re not quite all one-of-a-kind homogenous. We like to mix it op–a lot–and we celebrate our differences.

When one culture rears its head up and makes a statement, though, it can be a little disconcerting, and create some criticism and even some laughs from others not in the culture, who don’t conform to what’s mainstream “normal.”

Ever heard of Sweet Brown?

Rearing its head this weekend in New Orleans is a very different kind of celebration: we celebrate LGBT culture with Southern Decadence. Held every Labor Day weekend, Southern Decadence is one of the most colorful, fun festivals in New Orleans—but definitely not one that what one would consider politically correct in the mainstream homogenous American cultural mix (oh, trust me on that). I recently learned that Decadence is a celebration that started in New Orleans over 40 years ago. I also learned that the Decadence organization uses the proceeds from the event to donate to a charity every single year. So it’s not just a big gay party: this group parties hard (oh pardon the pun), and not only celebrates its gayness and different-ness that bubbles under the surface of New Orleans mainstream culture.  It’s actually a celebration of freedom of expression, of throwing off the shackles of being hated, derided and shunned by many in the world, even their own families (what a terrible tragedy).  It’s a celebration of equality, of being open, of acceptance.  And lucky ofr us, the party contributes greatly to the city’s appeal as an off-the-wall, party-friendly destination for people of all sexual orientations (who cares about sexual orientation, anyway? A person is a person!).

This sort of thing is exactly what I’ve described previously: in New Orleans, we care not about your culture being different; we celebrate your individuality. What we need to remember,  though, is that LGBT visitors are just people looking to have a good time, and if we loosen up and join the party, we’ll learn something about a culture that’s different from the ho-hum mainstream.

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